Best Cell Phone Coverage 2022

What’s the point of a cell phone if you can’t use it?

Best 4G Coverage
Fastest download speeds
Fastest upload speeds
Tyler Abbott
Staff Writer, Mobile & Wireless
Read More
August 02, 2022
7 min read

There are three major wireless networks in the United States battling it out for 4G and 5G coverage superiority. As it stands in 2022, here's how the rankings look for the best 4G coverage and best 5G coverage.

Best 4G coverage

  1. Verizon: 70% 4G coverage
  2. AT&T: 68% 4G coverage
  3. T-Mobile: 62% 4G coverage

Best 5G coverage

  1. T-Mobile: 53% 5G coverage
  2. AT&T: 29% 5G coverage
  3. Verizon: 12% 5G coverage

At the beginning of 2022, all the major wireless providers made announcements to significantly ramp up 5G coverage so this data may change as the year continues.

To determine which network provides the most reliable coverage across the country, we looked at coverage data compiled by WhistleOut.1

The best cell phone deals right now
Deals

The Big Three mobile carriers—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon—are all offering great trade-in deals right now. That means you can get up to $800 off select smartphones like the iPhone 13 or the new Samsung Galaxy S22 when you trade-in your old device.

Meanwhile, smaller MVNO carriers like Mint Mobile and Visible Wireless are offering up to 6 months of free cell phone service or discounts on select phones to entice new customers interested in more budget-friendly smartphones.

Find these and other offers in our monthly roundup of the best cell phone deals.



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Verizon network: Best 4G coverage

Verizon offers the most reliable 4G coverage in the country.
Pros
  • Top 4G coverage
  • Fastest download speeds
Cons
  • Expensive

What we like

Verizon Wireless offers by far the most 4G coverage in the country. If you constantly find yourself without a signal, Verizon will be your best friend.

Top coverage

Verizon Wireless covers 4G service for 70% of the US.1 On average, Verizon users report getting 4G coverage 95.9% of the time while using Verizon’s network.2 Depending upon where you are in the country, your coverage will probably feel even more reliable than that. The only pockets of America you need to worry about are more rural areas in the Southwest, Midwest, and Northwest.

If you live close to any big cities in those areas, you should expect super reliable coverage. Depending on your service location, you may be covered by 5G. Verizon's 5G coverage falls behind T-Mobile and AT&T at just 12% coverage.1

How would you rank Verizon’s Wireless coverage experience on a scale of 1–10?
Light Bulb

Verizon users were asked to rate their wireless coverage experience on the network, and the average summed out to a whopping 9.9 out of 10. That’s like a movie scoring 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. I will see any movie that's 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fast download speeds

We know that Verizon Wireless offers the best 4G service, but what about the network’s data speeds? Verizon clocks in around 30.2 Mbps. T-Mobile currently owns the fastest data speeds at 54.1 Mbps, and AT&T comes in second at 35.3 Mbps.

Instagram stories, YouTube videos, and online gaming apps should all pull up quickly and smoothly on Verizon’s network.

What we don’t like

Wouldn’t it be great if Verizon somehow managed to have the best coverage and cheap prices at the same time? Well, it doesn’t. Verizon plans are some of the most expensive phone plans out there.

Expensive

Since Verizon serves up the most reliable coverage in the country, getting on its network feels pricey. It’s kind of like eating at the fanciest restaurant in town—you have to pay an arm and a leg, but damn it if the food’s not delicious.

Here’s how the pricing breaks down for Verizon data plans:

Verizon plans get expensive fast, jumping up to $90 for its 5G Get More plan. You can find much cheaper wireless plans with unlimited data on different networks, but you won’t enjoy the same coverage reliability.

Get 6 month of free Disney+ through Verizon
Deals

Verizon is currently offering customers 6 months of free Disney+ to prepaid customers when they activate or upgrade to a Prepaid Unlimited plan. 

Alternative carriers on Verizon’s network

If Verizon’s plans cost a little too much, you can always get on Verizon’s network through an MVNO.

MVNO stands for mobile virtual network operator. Translation: alternative carriers that piggyback on other wireless networks to provide cell phone service. MVNO carriers can charge lower rates for cell phone plans, but the tradeoff is your data and coverage can slow down in congested areas.

An MVNO basically feels kind of like getting the cheap seats at a really expensive concert—you get to see the show, but you don’t always get the best view.

You can use an MVNO mobile provider that works on Verizon’s network, but you’ll occasionally run into deprioritization. In other words, your data speeds and coverage could drop in more congested areas because the Verizon network gives priority to Verizon customers.

Our favorite Verizon MVNO is easily Visible Wireless, which offers an unlimited data plan for $40 on Verizon’s network. But really, you can’t go wrong with any of the Verizon MVNOs on the table below.

Verizon focuses on rolling out 5G Ultra Wideband network
Bullhorn

Verizon announced earlier this year that the company will be amping up the rollout of its 5G Ultra Wideband network.

Since January 2021, Verizon reports that data usage on Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband network has increased by 249% 5. By the end of 2022, Verizon hopes to offer the 5G Ultra Wideband to over 175 million people. 3

AT&T Wireless: Second-best 4G coverage, second fastest download speeds

AT&T offers decent coverage and speedy downloads.
Pros
  • Second best 4G coverage
  • Free streaming data
Cons
  • Some dead spots

What we like

AT&T pulls ahead of T-Mobile in terms of 4G coverage at 68% and is actually close behind Verizon. AT&T's 5G coverage also comes in second at 29%, right behind T-Mobile.

Second-best 4G coverage

As it stands right now, AT&T's 4G network covers 68% of the country, and AT&T users report enjoying reliable coverage 92.9% of the time.1 It’s about a 1–2% coverage drop from Verizon to AT&T, making the coverage difference virtually unrecognizable for most of the country. The difference between the two providers basically comes down to rural coverage. Verizon covers a few more remote areas that AT&T does not, but the coverage should generally feel the same in the vast majority of the country.

Solid download speeds

According to our data, AT&T users average 35.3 Mbps download speeds. It's a few notches above Verizon (30.2) and a few notches below what T-Mobile (54.1 Mbps) offer, but AT&T's data speeds are still pretty reliable. I'm an active AT&T user and very rarely encounter dead spots with my data speeds. For reference, here are the average download speeds across the three major wireless networks.

Average data download speeds in 2022

Source: Opensignal 

With an average download speed of 35.3 Mbps, you should have no problem pulling up YouTube streams, Twitter videos, or Instagram stories. You should also be able to download apps without a problem.

What we don’t like

Most of the country is covered, but you should still look at AT&T’s coverage map. For example, if you live in Idaho or Montana, you should really double-check the coverage map and make sure where you live is covered. 

Confessions of an AT&T user
Pin

I’ve been on an AT&T family plan for years and enjoyed mostly reliable coverage—except in more rural areas. I was just in Park City, Utah, for a Sundance Film Festival event and couldn’t get a signal. This was frustrating because I was trying to meet up with someone and couldn’t get a text out.

Providers on AT&T’s network

AT&T offers a bevy of data plans that you can choose from. Recently, AT&T cut some of its free streaming and TV perks, but AT&T mobile still offers plans on a reliable network.

AT&T data plans

AT&T data plans certainly fall on the pricier end of the spectrum, but you can get on AT&T’s service network through an MVNO as well.

Other providers on AT&T's network

Going with an AT&T MVNO can cut your wireless bill in half. Your service won’t be quite as reliable on an MVNO, but you shouldn’t see too dramatic of a difference. In particular, we are fans of PureTalk USA and Cricket Mobile.

T-Mobile: Best 5G coverage and fastest upload speeds

Strong coverage with super fast data speeds
Pros
  • Best 5G coverage
  • Fastest upload speeds
Cons
  • Less reliable coverage in rural areas
  • Third-best 4G coverage

What we like

T-Mobile’s 4G coverage falls behind what Verizon and AT&T offer, but T-Mobile makes up for it in other places, like data speed and 5G coverage.

Third-best 4G coverage

It’s an 8% drop-off from Verizon’s 70% 4G service coverage to T-Mobile’s 62% coverage1—but that’s not how the users see it.

T-Mobile finishes last in the 4G coverage experience for users, but it's not that far behind:

Source: Opensignal

T-Mobile is only 0.5% less reliable than Verizon according to users but Verizon covers 8% more territory in the US.1 That’s because the main difference between T-Mobile coverage and Verizon coverage falls under rural areas. Verizon covers more of the remote spaces of the country, while T-Mobile specializes in coverage in more urban areas.

Where T-Mobile lacks on 4G coverage, it's made up for with great 5G coverage. T-Mobile has 53% 5G nationwide coverage which is 24% more than AT&T and 41% more 5G coverage than Verizon.

Fastest data download and upload speeds

Though T-Mobile comes last in 4G coverage, T-Mobile’s network comes in first place for data upload and download speeds. This is a big deal for any of you who happen to post Instagram stories, Twitter videos, or YouTube videos. Likewise, it's a big deal for those of you who watch Instagram stories, Twitter videos, and YouTube videos. So, really, all of us.

Check out T-Mobile coming out on top for upload wireless speeds.

Source: Opensignal

The average T-Mobile user gets an 10.5 Mbps upload speed and 54.1 Mbps download speed, making it the fastest wireless option out there.

What we don’t like

T-Mobile’s coverage gets much more spotty as you venture out into the more rural areas of the country. For folks who spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, you might run into dead spots on T-Mobile’s network

Less reliable coverage in rural areas

If you hail from the great states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, or Nebraska we would say to avoid T-Mobile altogether. You’re bound to run into dead zones frequently, and that’s annoying.

Providers on T-Mobile’s network

The most obvious choice for getting on T-Mobile’s network is, well, T-Mobile itself. T-Mobile’s unlimited data plans pack a lot of value, but they aren’t exactly dirt cheap.

T-Mobile unlimited data plans

You can always go the budget route and opt for an MVNO that uses T-Mobile’s network. There are tons of options for MVNOs on T-Mobile’s network, but Mint Mobile would be our top recommendation.

MVNOs on T-Mobile’s network

Recap: You get what you pay for

If you pick the provider with the best 4G coverage (Verizon), you have to cope with its higher-than-average price. In other words, you pay for what you get and you get what you pay for.

To recap, here are the rankings for best 4G and 5G coverage providers in the country:

Best 4G cell phone coverage by carrier

  1. Verizon: 70% 4G coverage
  2. AT&T: 68% 4G coverage
  3. T-Mobile: 62% 4G coverage

Best 5G cell phone coverage by carrier

  1. T-Mobile: 53% 5G coverage
  2. AT&T: 29% 5G coverage
  3. Verizon: 12% 5G coverage

Source: WhistleOut1

Whether you live in a rural area or a more urban area, coverage is a big deal. You never know when you’ll need to get a text out or make a call. Just think how many horror movies could’ve been prevented with good coverage.

How has your experience been with these providers? Any horror stories or tales of redemption? Let us know in the comments below!

Why does coverage matter?
Bullhorn

Your phone doesn’t work without a signal. And there are plenty of places where you don't want to be without a signal. The DMV is the first place that comes to mind.

FAQ

Who has the best 5G Network in 2022?

The newest cell phone network technology is called 5G. The five stands for “fifth” and the G stands for “generation”. It comes in the wake of earlier generations like 3G, 4G LTE, and 4G. 

So, which 5G network is the best right now, in 2022? The short answer is: T-Mobile, which has the best overall 5G coverage and the fastest average 5G speeds, according to OpenSignal.

But the longer answer is: it depends. In certain areas, Verizon is actually the best, with its powerful millimeter wave 5G technology that can give you speeds faster than your home internet connection. And in certain other areas, AT&T may have the strongest 5G coverage. Verizon also recently announced a rollout to it's 5G Ultra Wideband network which may change its performance.3 So be sure to check the coverage maps (see above) to see what each carrier’s network looks like in your area. 

What is mobile network coverage?

When people talk about “mobile network coverage,” they’re referring to the area in which a given cell phone carrier’s signal works, and the strength of that signal. The mobile network coverage of each company will depend on where it has placed network towers and other network infrastructure. 

There are three major carrier networks in the United States—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon—and each one has its own coverage area. You can see each company’s coverage map in the article above.

Which network is most reliable?

Network reliability is a tricky subject because there are several factors at play. There’s the issue of overall coverage by area, which is different from the reliability of signal and data speeds within that area. 

So, to begin answering this question, we’ll say that Verizon has the best overall coverage by area. You can get a good 4G signal in more places with Verizon than with T-Mobile or AT&T. But, that doesn’t necessarily make Verizon the most reliable network in every city or town. 

For instance, in OpenSignal’s 2022 Mobile Network Experience Report, T-Mobile actually has the best overall download speed and upload speeds. This means that the networks may be more reliable (within their given coverage areas) for things like streaming video or playing games, even if they don’t have the largest coverage area by size.

Will 4G LTE still work in 2022?

The three major wireless carriers have been working to retire 3G to improve the performance of 4G and 5G in 2022. Once all these 3G networks are shut down, 3G phones will no longer work, along with some older 4G LTE devices.6

AT&T officially shut down its 3G network in February 2022. 

In June 2022, T-Mobile which merged with Sprint in 2020 retired Sprint's 4G LTE network, and retired T-Mobile's 3G network on July 1st. 

Verizon plans to retire its 3G network by December 31st, 2022. 

Tyler Abbott
Written by
Tyler Abbott
Tyler has been obsessed with watching sports as efficiently as possible since the creation of the DVR. He is always on the lookout for the best tech in TV and wireless so he can watch all the sports and still have enough time to hang out with his baby. He has written about streaming, wireless, and TV for over three years. He hopes the Lakers will eventually get better.

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